Last week, Col. Allen West, a Republican running in the 22nd district, came under fire when a group of men wearing biker gear escorted a Democratic tracker out of a campaign event. “Sergeant,” who spoke on condition of anonymity, was among them — and says the ensuing media reports and attack ads have gotten it all wrong.
“The Klein campaign has just taken this thing and blown it all the way out of proportion,” he said. “I just — I’ve never been so insulted in my life.”
It was a rally for veterans, he says, which is why his motorcycle club, the Leathernecks, was in attendance. Membership is restricted to honorably discharged Marines, and the back of their leather vests bears the Marine Corps emblem. Sergeant himself served in Vietnam.
“We had several individuals in the crowd that the Leathernecks thought were going to accost the man — seriously. For his safety, we escorted him to his car,” the sergeant said. “Did we want to know his tag number? Yes we did, because it was from Illinois.”
A voice on the video can be heard saying, “Why are you working in Florida?” Earlier in the tape a voice says in what sounds like a warning, not a threat: “Somebody’s going to hurt him. You’re going to get hurt, guy,” to which another responds, “I know, that’s why… come on, man.”
It was a courtesy escort they would have provided to anyone, he says.
“We would have afforded Klein the same protection from anyone in the crowd — I mean, that’s what Marines do. We’re not going to let anyone be harmed, regardless of what political party they’re from,” he said. “We are non-political. And we are not part of Allen West’s security team.”
Here’s how Sergeant described the unfolding event: “We were drawn to the attention of this gentleman standing directly behind the podium. And his antics with the camera were drawing everyone’s attention to him instead of to Allen West, who was speaking. I walked over and asked him if he had been invited, because this was a private event, and asked him if he was, in fact, a veteran. … At about this time, Lt. Col. West admonished his presence, and asked those present to have him leave, or ask him to leave,” Sergeant said.
Although the f-word is audible several times in the tape, he says it was not uttered by a member of his club, and emphasized that the tracker was not physically touched. “He claimed that someone moved the camera out of his hand. No one touched him. No one. I put my hand in front of the camera lens, because I didn’t want my face on national TV.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, though, has spun the message in an attack ad: “Members of a biker gang served as his personal body guards, and West writes for their biker magazine.”
“I’ve seen it, and it’s just making me cry,” the sergeant said.
He says he saw no affiliates of the infamous “Outlaws” biker club at the event. Moreover, he says it’s unfair to lump all biker groups together and that the Leathernecks do not have any ties with the Outlaws. Both belong to the South Florida Confederation of Clubs, which he says is like a licensing organization for biker groups — but “Bikers for Jesus” is a member, too.
“Because Ron Klein sleeps on white sheets, does that make him an affiliate of the Klan? This is nuts,” he said.